SEASIDE, Ore. -- Oregon's wildlife is a treasure for all to enjoy, but take "too much" while fishing or hunting and you end up leaving less for others.
Oregon State Police are protecting the spring clamming resources and busting those not following the rules.
“I’ll typically watch one group of people for 10,15, 20 minutes and if I don’t see anything suspicious, I'll move on to another group,” state game officer Joe Warwick said while scoping out the crowds at Gearhart Beach.
Groups greet the dawn with clam shovels and buckets and nets in hand. They come by thousands for fun - but some come to cheat.
“They come out and hide clams in their pockets, in their waders ... those are the people we are interested in,” Warwick said.
With patience and a keen eye, the suspicious are easy to spy: “A gentleman who did not retain the first 15 clams that he dug because they were broken and too small” admitted he broke the rules and put broken clams back.
Undercover officer Dave Herman said clam abundance is too tempting for many.
One man was “high grading” - keeping big ones and putting small ones back. Herman says more than a third of clammers he contacts violate rules. T
he wardens cover 18 miles, from Seaside to the Columbia River. Warwick keeps clams seized from an illegal harvest -- they go to the local food bank and the violator’s ticket is $160.
“It’s worth protecting and its worth saving, so years down the road so my kids can dig clams too,” Warwick said.
State game officers report a higher rate of non-compliance with rules for razor clamming than any other fishing or hunting violation.
Their message is clear -- go to the coast and dig your clams, but play by the rules or you could end up with an expensive day in the Oregon outdoors.